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Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
OPERA REVIEW

Principals B. Knezevic A. Veruni and K. Gino's Curtain Call (Conductor Mary Chun Watches)

'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA

by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019

In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it was July 19 when the Festival mounted Donizetti’s charming “Elixir of Love” in the massive tent on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino Bay.

The two-act work runs a little over two hours and stage director Ann Woodhead moved the action from rural Italy of the 1830s to rural Italy a hundred years later. On the wide stage were a rustic table, a few chairs, milk cans and the Festival Chamber Chorale of 15 quite elderly singers, in simple costumes by Janice Culliford. Mary Chun conducted the Festival Orchestra, hidden as always in MMF operas behind a black back stage scrim, but never missed due to the overloud amplification that favored brass and sporadically covered the ensemble’s singing on stage.

Elixir’s plot revolves around familiar operatic themes of boy wants girl/mix ups/boy finally gets girl, with the interest coming in the complications. Here it is the insertion of a quack snake oil salesman (Dr. Dulcamara) that through his extravagance and the town’s gullibility his home-brewed “elixir” (cheap Tuscan Chianti) solves romantic and social issues and ultimately brings good financial fortune and merriment to all.

How was the singing? Very good, with a balanced production spotlighting soprano Aurelie Veruni (as Adina) and her awkward swain (tenor Kevin Gino as Nemorino) and the massive bass Bojan Knezevic’s sprightly Sgt. Belcore, the village’ resident soldier. Tending to steal the show were the repartee and antics of baritone Nick Volkert’s Dulcamara, capturing the buffo pranks and inciting the action. Ms. Veruni in the first act combined coquettish acting with clear Italian and when needed considerable top-note power, important in the large-volume tent space with zero reverberation. Mr. Gino’s was equally impressive if with a less powerful voice and perhaps over-the-top hand gestures and continual fumbling with his straw hat and shaking the love potion bottle.

Elixir’s most famous area, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” began with Mr. Gino’s tranquil mezzo piano introduction framed by lovely bassoon playing by Carolyn Lockhart, but never quite soared over the audience of 700. Tenors love to sing it, with recent stellar versions from Pavarotti and Juan Diego Flores. The “Quanto Amore” duet between Adina and Dulcamara was a highlight as in the second act the plot strands were coming together.

Musically the score was one that Verdi must have valued (Traviata, Ballo) and Ms. Chun, a veteran of bay Area conducting and Music Director of Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, drew a lively performance that never lagged. Even with stage right and stage center prompters, Ms. Chun must have had a video screen in front of her conductor’s score to manage the unfolding musical flow with the unseen stage action. Excellent playing during Ms. Veruni’s sensitively sung cabaletta “Prendi, per me sei Libero" came from clarinetist Eric Kritz and what was I think Meave Cox’ English horn. Did I also hear an electric piano or celeste?

The Festival’s much appreciated supertitles (the English libretto projected on the scrim) failed for much of the first act, but otherwise the production was pretty much flawless – no stage missteps, dropped lines, late orchestral entries or halting Italian words.

Elixir was another in a string of opera successes for the Festival, all the more impressive in that casting and rehearsal schedules are complex, and “it has to be right” for just one performance.